NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Bank of America 500
Topics: Bank of America 500
October 11, 2008
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
KERRY THARP: We'll start with our post race press conference, tonight's Bank of America 500 here at Lowe's Motor Speedway. We have our third-place finisher, Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, and our points leader, Jimmie Johnson, driving the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.
I'll start with you, Kurt. Certainly a strong performance out of that No. 2 car tonight.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it was. It was great to be able to see the front and stiff a little bit of the lead of the race with 25 to go. It was a good feeling to know that it was right there and we ended up with a solid finish, racing in the top five, something that we hadn't done as of late.
But give credit to Penske Racing, the overall group effort. We put the 77 setup in. We put some 12 car geometry in the front. We adjusted on it like the 2 car knows how to do. The Penske Racing effort to me is showing signs of communication and strength and moving forward.
Secondly, it was the second race for the R6 engine. I felt confident it hit with the power that it gave me and the reliability that it's showing. So just an overall great group effort from Penske. Happy to finish third with the Miller Lite Dodge.
KERRY THARP: We also have our second-place finisher, Kasey Kahne. You certainly came close to getting Trifecta here at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Your thoughts?
KASEY KAHNE: We kind of battled with the car all night, kept battling, got our lap back. Got up to about seventh. Just took right sides there at the end. We got some good track position. My car was changing a ton throughout the runs. I would start tight, start loose; it would go opposite throughout the runs.
It was a good run. I'm glad we finished where we did. We had a nice try to catch the 31. He was fast. We tried, but just didn't get to him. But it was still a good run for our Budweiser Dodge. First top five in a while, so that feels pretty good.
KERRY THARP: Jimmie Johnson, our points leader, I believe for the third consecutive week. Your thoughts about how the race unfolded out there tonight, Jimmie?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: First two-thirds was good for us, then we were junk at the end. Tried to get up there. Took a lot of risks tonight trying to get as many points as I could on the 16 and trying to hang with that 31 and get by him. Damn near threw it away a couple times. Early in the race we had some pretty big moments as well.
Just hate the last third of the race. We got out in left field and couldn't get it back.
KERRY THARP: Questions now for these three.
Q. Jimmie, as Jeff Burton had kind of lurked there right near, had you noticed him when you looked at the standings week by week? Did you wonder if he was going to pop through and get a win? Also, how frustrating was it to not quite get it done in that duel, and did that cause your car to get worse to fall back like that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, the duel, I was just trying to get it done when I had those fresh right-side tires. That's what put me on pace with him. The old characteristics showed back up in the car, what we were dealing with.
But for sure it's frustrating not being able to complete the pass. He didn't leave me a lot of room. There's two times on the entry to one where I was dead, one into three and the other into one actually. Thought I was going to clean us both out. Fortunately that didn't happen. But I was certainly frustrated slipping back through the field. You don't know important those points are going to be till the end of the year. Watching each guy go by, counting them as they go by, is no fun.
What was the first question?
Q. Had you noticed Jeff week by week lurking there close to the standings under the radar?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: He's always been on my radar screen. I think in '06 he led most of the Chase. He's been doing this a long time. He knows the tracks. He's revitalized RCR over the years. I think we can all give him a lot of credit for the turnaround RCR has had. On track he's smart. He knows how to race hard. He's been out there a long time. He knows how to race and get points.
He's always been on my radar.
Q. Jimmie, are you really confident now going into Martinsville? You've won there before.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I feel good about Martinsville. Right now I'm pissed about tonight. But, you know, tomorrow, Tuesday, whatever it is, be ready for Martinsville. I think we'll be real good over there. It's been a great track to us. I'm excited to go there. Hopefully we can take advantage of going to a good track.
Q. Kasey, did your car have the new engine here tonight also?
KASEY KAHNE: No. We had the engine that we've had for a while. We're still working with that one. It ran great tonight as well. So it was a good night for all Dodge engines, it looked like.
Q. Kurt, it sounded like you were having some sort of brake problems with a third of the race to go. How did those get resolved or did they?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, felt like my pedal effort, it was getting too long. It was almost bouncing off the floorboard. To me that means the car isn't handling all that well. I had to slow it down too much on corner entry.
At that point that's when the fronts seemed to be glazing over and the rears started to grab and get more aggressive. That makes you loose in. So I had to pump the pedal twice each straightaway, just hope the brakes stayed underneath it.
We made two adjustments at the end that allowed our car to free up a little bit, that way we didn't need as much brake to run the bottom side of the racetrack.
But something with the COT, it's not all that efficient with brake cooling and radiator cooling. Things get plugged up in the front. There's quite a few things that are wrong with the front end of the car. Sometimes you have to just commit to running brake ducts, keeping the brake cool, even though you're only at a mile-and-a-half.
Q. Kurt, you ran the engine at Kansas. It was more handling issues that slowed you up there. What kind of feedback do you get on that engine or can you tell after two races?
KURT BUSCH: The two races have shown consistent signs of real low water temperature and high oil temperature. That's something that we're not used to. Normally they're within 20, 30 degrees. Both races they've had 50 degrees of split. So that allows us to run more tape on the car, to let the radiator temp get warmer, but then the oil temp seems to be shooting up with that. That just makes it more uncomfortable in the car.
Ideally you want the water to be warmer and the oil is going to be shooting up towards 270. To me that's a bit warm.
Then this time around we didn't have any water issues. We were squirting out water last time even though we were running cool. We've made progress in just two races with this engine and it shows some sign of durability. We need that all important more power.
Q. Kurt, can you talk about what kind of horsepower is it giving you? Where is it helping you on the track?
KURT BUSCH: They've showed me the dyno curves. It shows pluses in all rpm ranges: low, medium and high. Maybe it noses over at the very high end, 9600, 9700. With the new gear rule that NASCAR has given us, that isn't a very important rpm range any more. So I'm still looking for that low-end torque. I want this grunt coming off the corner when you're about the 8000 to 8500 range. So we're still pushing to get that, and hopefully we'll get some more R&D testing done on the new R6 engine so we can put it in our restrictor plate program as well.
Q. Jimmie, we talk about consistency, we talk about top fives. Today was a gamble. The guy wins on a gamble. Is a gamble what it's going to take to beat you from this point on, being the points leader?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Hell, I don't know. I think that it might have been a gamble for the 31. I'm not sure it was that big of a risk. We took fuel only earlier in the race. If you're stuff's working right, and you're on, you know...
I think it was less risk than it looked like. It wasn't like Atlanta or something where we didn't take tires and you really need 'em. He had plenty of speed. They took off and ran away from us.
Q. Jimmie, I don't think I've seen you this pissed in a while. Obviously the guys passing you there in the end, falling back in the field, are you upset with that specifically or the way the car was handling at the end? Is something that frustrated you the most?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's probably all of it rolled up into one. Had to take a lot of chances today to get the result that we did. I don't like putting myself in that situation. Almost lost the car a handful of times. So that frustration of being on pins and needles out there, trying to run as hard as you can, watching positions slip by and things like that, all just keeps adding up.
Really the last third of the race, it was like that. So I've got a good hour of being upset in me. Take a little while to get it out of my system (laughter).
Q. Kasey, what is it about this place? You can come in here riding high or struggling and you always seem to run so well.
KASEY KAHNE: I think for one, Kenny Francis, Gillett Evernham, we have good setups, every time we came here four or five years, the cars have been good. You run well, you kind of figure out what you're looking for, what you want the car to do in the corners and things. We've had a lot of great luck, too. We put on two tires at the right time. We've taken zero at the right time. We got the Lucky Dog at the right time, which puts on new tires. The caution comes out 10 laps later, half the guys pit, we're still on fairly new tires and up front.
I mean, it's just things have worked out good for us here. We'll keep working to try to find ways to be this good at other tracks. I mean, that's the main thing. We run pretty strong here all the time. We have to figure out how to be this strong at other racetracks.
I think our team's doing a good job. We're working hard to keep getting better. Hopefully be able to contend for a championship at some point down the road.
Q. Jimmie, looking at the points standings, there's two other guys within 150 points of you. Fourth place is 168, Carl. You came back from 146 in 2006. How comfortable does it make you? Do you feel you've narrowed the field to you, Jeff and Greg?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, in some ways I do. But it's such a relative situation. If us top three guys have problems, those guys are right back in it. As we get down to fewer races on the schedule left, I think that margin becomes more comfortable.
That's a decent margin. Heck, we're only halfway through it. I was more than that and down after Talladega it was. But it took other guys having problems to let me into it.
So if we go clean, that's going to be really tough for the 99 to overcome. But if we all have trouble, then he's right back in it.
KERRY THARP: Guys, thanks so much.
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